Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Here's a good shot of a Honey Locust tree. A little over exposure but shows it's natural defense mechanism from a bit of a distance. This particular tree is only about 30 to 40 years old and already has three massive trunks.
This is a bit more close up picture of a smaller one. The thorns are reddish or copper colored when young and gradually turn gray and get brittle as they age.
The Honey Locust has a BTU output of around 26.5 which usually places it close to the top of the scale although there are more than a few Hardwood varieties with higher/hotter burning wood. What makes the Honey Locust important around my neck of the woods is that it is extremely fast growing, defends itself from grazing damage and is pretty short lived but grows almost everywhere which means there is a lot of it standing dead to use as firewood.
Not long after one dies the bark detaches from the wood and takes the thorns with it so by the time the wood has cured and dried and is ready for burning you can cut it up pretty safely. The thorns also lose a lot of their punch when they dried out and brittle. They decay much faster than the wood itself. The wood is also very rot resistant which means even ones that have been dead for a decade or more are still able to be felled, cut and burned.
What makes it dangerous is that if you burn too much at a time it will literally melt the inside of a wood stove even through firebricks. Other hardwoods will do this as well but those types are either very slow growing or long lived (or both) so you do not usually have massive quantities of those types at once. For instance a Shagbark Hickory is a hotter burning wood but although there are plenty of them around they are so long lived I rarely harvest one and almost never harvest a big one.
Another aspect is how the wood releases the heat. Other hot burning hardwoods burn more slowly while a Honey Locust burns faster and releases the heat in a shorter period overall.
While the Honey Locust has a pretty large natural range in the South and Middle of the US it is especially abundant around here locally. It is also prevalent enough that it is a pretty important nectar producer for Honey locally but not listed as important nationally.
There are thornless varieties that are used as shade trees all over the place so you may have seen one but didn't know what it was without it's signature thorns. It also produces large seed pods that are edible and contain a jelly-like substance inside that is sweet and tastes like honey. Hence their name.
The Black Locust has pretty much the same properties as the Honey Locust but smaller seed pods that are toxic. We get those around here as well but they are not as numerous.
The properties of this tree just means I end up harvesting quite a bit of it as most people just don't want to mess with it. I try and cut very little live wood and the long life span of most hardwoods means I rarely get to take one down. If an Oak or Hickory dies someone is usually on it fast as they are the popular trees to burn.